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GRAMOPHONE 2021

BEST NEW CLASSICAL ALBUMS


Martin Cullingford's pick of the finest recordings from this month's reviews.
Here are the titles available from Naxos Direct.
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Image RECORDING OF THE MONTH - JANUARY 2021
Martinu Two Violin Concertos Bartók Solo Violin Sonata
Frank Peter Zimmermann vn Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Jakub Hruša

"Frank Peter Zimmermann brings a beautiful, lyrical tone to bear on the two Martinu violin concertos, and is completely inside the composer’s idiom, which makes for a wonderful album." (Gramophone) 

Frank Peter Zimmermann, one of today’s most highly regarded violinists, takes our breath away with this recording together with the Bamberger Symphoniker and their chief conductor Jakub Hruša – one of the leading Martinu conductors of today. They start off by exploring the lyrical side of Bohuslav Martinu, offered in the Second Violin Concerto (1943), to dive into the neo-classical idiom championed by Stravinsky that informs the composer’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Béla Bartók’s Sonata for Solo Violin closes the album. Composed in 1944, only a year before Bartók’s death, it is a deeply personal statement which fuses the overall layout of Bach’s solo violin sonatas with Hungarian folk tradition with results that are as fascinating to the listener as they are challenging to the performer.

kr 169
Image #2 JANUARY 2021
‘Plaisirs illuminés’
Patricia Kopatchinskaja vn Camerata Bern

"A characteristically thoughtful programme from violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, which, as she puts it, also offers a showcase of the qualities of the Camerata Bern." (Gramophone) 

This recording presents the double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra of the Spanish composer Francisco Coll, born in 1985. Les Plaisirs Illuminés, a title inspired by Dalí’s painting of the same name, is rooted in Spanish traditions, including flamenco, yet is resolutely modern: ‘Its music is very lively rhythmically, it dances and sings- but at the same time it is very abrupt, always in search of extremes,’ says Patricia Kopatchinskaja. For this world premiere conducted by the composer, she is reunited with a longstanding partner who pursues an equally brilliant international career, the cellist Sol Gabetta. The program also features Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for string orchestra, composed in 1946 at the request of Paul Sacher for the twentieth anniversary of the Basler Kammerorchester and the Musica concertante for twelve strings by the Hungarian-born Swiss composer Sandor Veress, premiered by the Camerata Bern in 1966. A year earlier, the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera wrote his fascinating Concerto for Strings. A kaleidoscope of colors and sounds from all over the world…

kr 169
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Arensky. Mendelssohn. Shostakovich Piano Trios No 1
Trio Zeliha

"Trio Zeliha is our One to Watch, a decision made purely on the strength of this gorgeous album – three evident musical personalities who collaborate beautifully." (Gramophone) 


kr 139
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Mozart Gran Partita, K361
Members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Alexei Ogrintchouk ob

"Mozart’s ‘Gran Partita’ receives a stylish performance from these colleagues from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra." (Gramophone) 

Better known as Gran Partita, Mozart’s Serenade in B-flat major, K 361 is the crowning glory of the Harmoniemusik of the Classical era. Austrian and German nobles in particular often employed small wind ensembles called Harmonien which provided entertainment during banquets and outdoor festivities. In order to satisfy the growing demand for suitable music, countless arrangements of operas and ballet music were made, while original works were supplied by a wide range of composers – Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and many lesser masters wrote Harmoniemusik. Among their works, Mozart’s Serenade stands out for several reasons. It is on a larger scale than most: with seven movements and a duration of some 50 minutes, it is scored for thirteen instruments rather than the usual eight or nine. But conceived with a cyclical layout and with a highly economic use of motivic material, it also displays a compositional sophistication unusual for the genre. The Gran Partita is here performed by wind players from one of the world’s finest orchestras, the Amsterdam Concertgebouworkest, under the direction of oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk. Ogrintchouk has also chosen the coupling, a set of variations by Beethoven on Mozart’s famous aria from Don Giovanni scored for two oboes and English horn.

kr 135 (kr 169)
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JS Bach ‘Little Books’
Francesco Corti hpd

"‘One of the most enjoyable Baroque recitals I’ve heard in a very long time’ – there’s not much that needs adding to reviewer Patrick Rucker’s perceptive words on this wonderfully engaging harpsichord album!" (Gramophone) 

A world renowned international soloist and harpsichord teacher at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Francesco Corti embarks a collaboration with Arcana with a musical journey through the manuscripts of the Bach family, beginning with the two books belonging to Johann Sebastian’s brother (the Moller and Andreas Bach manuscripts) and leading to the famous Buchleine for Anna Magdalena and Wilhelm Friedemann. The programme presents three major keyboard works by J.S. Bach that are preserved in ‘domestic’ copies. Combined with works by the most important musical figures in Bach’s musical life: Bohm, one of his teachers; Kuhnau, his predecessor as Thomaskantor; Telemann, friend and godfather to Bach’s second son Carl Philipp Emanuel; Hasse and Francois Couperin. The resulting programme is an unconventional Bachian harpsichord recital, a mixture of different genres and composers, that is probably much closer to the ‘home concert’ of the period than to the standard modern recital.

kr 159
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Bowen Piano Works
Nicolas Namoradze pf

"Pianist Nicolas Namoradze proves himself an adept and inspired virtuoso in these unfamiliar York Bowen works – just the sort of project with which the superb Hyperion label so often enriches the catalogue." (Gramophone) 

n this wonderfully planned programme the whimsical poetry of York Bowen’s Hans Andersen ‘fragments’—music for a fully-fledged technique, despite the fairy-tale titles—is pleasingly complemented by the bravura of the studies. Nicolas Namoradze proves more than equal to the demands of both.

kr 169
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Chopin. Debussy. Mussorgsky Piano Works
Behzod Abduraimov pf

"Behzod Abduraimov’s move to Alpha was reported last month – and what a start to the partnership, an album of distinguished musicianship, elegance and sheer delight." (Gramophone) 

Behzod Abduraimov joins Alpha for several recordings, starting with this ‘kaleidoscope of miniatures’ – miniatures that are in fact fairly gigantic, and showcase the Uzbek pianist’s extreme virtuosity and sensitivity. ‘Each movement is in itself a miniature, and taken together they form a kaleidoscope of human emotions and images of all kinds,’ says Behzod Abduraimov. In his view, the pieces in Debussy’s Children’s Corner are not intended for young piano students, but ‘for adults, so that they can immerse themselves in the world of children with a little nostalgia and a lot of humor.’ When it comes to Chopin, ‘each prelude has a different musical essence, creates its own atmosphere. Together they form an arc spanning the distance from the first prelude to the last. So I tried to consider them as a whole.’ Finally, Mussorgsky evokes in ten highly expressive movements the paintings at an exhibition held in posthumous tribute to his friend Viktor Hartmann. A ‘Promenade’ heard several times suggests Mussorgsky himself strolling through the exhibition. For Behzod Abduraimov, the “Promenades” play a key role in this cycle: they create the atmosphere before each painting.

kr 169
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Machaut ‘The Lion of Nobility’
The Orlando Consort

"This ongoing Machaut series from the Orlando Consort continues to attract acclaim, and it’s easy to see why – their understanding of the medieval French composer’s songs is superb.

The titular ‘lion of nobility’ was (probably) King John II of France, making the most expansive work on this album a lament for a historical event: the French defeat at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. Elsewhere, Machaut’s protagonist continues to scrutinize the joys and sorrows of courtly love in obsessive detail.

kr 169
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Ockeghem ‘Les chansons’
Cut Circle / Jesse Rodin

"More excellent early music this month, from a century later, though just as individual in its approach – Cut Circle’s album is brilliantly recorded and beautifully presented." (Gramophone) 

Intimacy, intensity, passion—this album explores the unfamiliar idea that fifteenth-century songs might cause us to sigh, weep, or laugh out loud. In bringing to life a world in which crying in public was not just acceptable but required, we have to take seriously the crushing despair of a line like “My only sorrow is that I am not dead,” or the undisguised sarcasm of “This is how she chopped and cooked me up.” In Johannes Ockeghem’s roughly two dozen songs we find not only unparalleled compositional prowess, but feelings that range from happiness to loss, anger to despair, and bitterness to merriment. The album’s all-vocal, fully texted, close-mic’d performances are rooted in a flexible, full-blooded vocal technique that aims to capture the music’s technical brilliance and emotional depth.

kr 299
Image DVD: JANUARY 2021
Donizetti L’ange di Nisida
Sols; Orchestra Donizetti Opera / Jean-Luc Tingaud

"Following Opera Rara’s studio recording, this is the wonderful stage premiere of Donizetti’s hitherto unperformed opera." (Gramophone) 

Gaetano Donizetti's L’Ange de Nisida was commissioned by the director of the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. The libretto was entrusted to Gustave Vaëz and Alphonse Royer, and the opéra en quatre parties was completed in 1840. Unfortunately the theatre went bankrupt and the opera never reached the stage. Donizetti was aware that other venues would have rejected his work as it stood, for both repertoire and censorship reasons (the plot revolved around the King of Naples, Ferdinando d’Aragona, and his mistress). Consequently, he revised the score and incorporated a significant portion of it within his new one, La favorite. The autograph score of L’Ange was subsequently lost and it is only thanks to the painstaking research of musicologist Candida Mantica that it was brought to light again. She took on the huge challenge of classifying the roughly 470 randomly alternate pages of L’Ange de Nisida that had survived at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris; she re-established their original order and finally managed to reconstruct roughly 97 percent of Donizetti’s music. The few gaps in the score were judged as irrelevant by both Mantica and Donizetti Opera, so that the opera was considered a complete work in itself, with no need for additions written by other composers. 180 years after its composition, the opera was finally performed for the first time in its original theatrical form in Donizetti’s native Bergamo, at the construction site of the city theatre bearing his name, a most symbolic coincidence that added emotional value to a long-awaited event. The performance was hailed as a triumph by both the public and the critics and was awarded a special prize at the 39th Franco Abbiati Prize of Italian music critics.

kr 379
Image BLU RAY: JANUARY 2021
kr 379
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